Comment at The Observer:
“But the exciting new possibilities offered by genetic technology will be expensive and available only to elites. So the long century in which medicine had a “levelling up” effect on human populations, bringing good healthcare within the reach of most people, has come to an end. Even today, rich people live longer and healthier lives. In a couple of decades, that gap will widen into a chasm.”
As old Joe Schumpeter pointed out:
“The capitalist engine is first and last an engine of mass production which unavoidably also means production for the masses. . . . It is the cheap cloth, the cheap cotton and rayon fabric, boots, motorcars and so on that are the typical achievements of capitalist production, and not as a rule improvements that would mean much to the rich man. Queen Elizabeth owned silk stockings. The capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within reach of factory girls. “
Mobile phones first became available, what, 35 years ago? £3,000 and a £ a minute or something? Now they’re £10 and maybe £20 for a month’s airtime? There’s also been some inflation in there. From, say two months average income to three hours, in one generation at most?
The truly astonishing thing about capitalism is how it makes these new things cheap for the masses. And how fast it makes them cheap for the masses. Medical technology is and will be no different to stockings and phones. How long did it take penicillin to go from priceless to cheap as chips? How long did Viagra’s patent last – 20 years from application date, of course.
There could be a bolus of inequality that moves through the system, true, as a pig through a python. But all of our experience is that new and expensive technologies become mass market ones within a generation.